Jim Hodges @ Gladstone, Andrea Bowers @ Kreps

I can’t bring myself to see the Carsten Höller show at the New Museum. It sounds like something I would love—
1. It’s called Experience.
2. There’s lots of mirrors.
3. There’s lots of playing with perception.

But, after Jerry Saltz’ rant, I’m afraid the New Museum will be overrun by crowds, and that it will be pervaded by playfulness and novelty that edges out reflexivity. In other words, my experience will be of a spectacle, and not of a phenomenological unravelling, of mystery unfolding into discovery, of the gradual maturity of an idea or sensibility.

While I work up my patience, I made it to see Jim Hodge’s excellent exhibitions at Gladstone Gallery (through December 23) today. At the 24th Street venue, there were three massive works, all masterfully accomplished. The first is a huge black glass mosaic tondo. During my visit it was a full circle; the website depicts the piece shown in segments. Indeed, during my visit I noticed unpainted patches on the wall, which I realize now were artifacts of this evolving display. It depicts flashes of light and sparkles, achieved only with the tile pattern. It’s spectacularly reflective and shimmering.

Adjacent to the tondo is an installation of a single, huge, slowly spinning, mirrored disco ball. Four programmed spotlights are pointed at it, so that the starry specs of light cast about the room move in multiple directions. If you’re moving at New York City speed, you’ll fail to notice that the disco ball is lowering very slowly. Indeed, if you stick around long enough, you will see it descend, unbelievably, into a circular hole jackhammered into the concrete floor, and filled with inky water. Indeed, the mirrored ball touches the surface, then becomes engulfed, achieving a slowly disappearing reflection of itself in the water, submerging completely until the room is still and dark. To transition from such a mesmerizing visual rhythm to stillness was markedly calming. Visiting galleries in Chelsea can seems like a Sisyphean task; this installation left me feeling grateful and centered.

At Hodges’ 20th Street show, I was utterly stumped by the technique behind the massive electroplated(?) boulders.

Andrea Bowers is a total beast with her graphite realism. She continues to be one of most unabashedly activist artists working today. Her show at Andrew Kreps (closing on Saturday) revisits second-wave feminist publications and posters, and combines them with devastatingly good pro-choice drawings and portraits of LGBTQ and worker’s rights demonstrators.

Ohad Meromi‘s inexplicably warm material manipulations—geometric, fundamental, recognizable, and yet fully conjectural—continue though Saturday at Harris Lieberman. A ballet bar lines the walls. Collages and their handmade plywood frames converge to become sculptural objects. A participatory “anti-performance workshop” is scheduled for Saturday 6pm.

Matthew Brannon at Casey Kaplan. Irresistible as usual letterpress/screenprints, plus 3-D translations in sculpture. The show is a crime thriller, staged in touches of fey powder pink, windowed office doors, and glossy hand-painted signs. It’s sort of literary and nostalgic and domestic. Between the pink, the letterpress, and the personally-scaled texts, I wonder if the work would be read or regarded differently if the artist was female. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. As Randy Cohen pointed out last night (at a great panel discussion at the intersection of ethics, psychology, and perception organized by No Longer Empty), a person might see clearly, but never objectively.

Community, Research

Text-based art + Light-based art = Yum Yum!

I’ve been underground (metaphorically and literally, sort of: my studio’s in a basement), preparing for Galleon Trade at Bay Area Now/YBCA. So I’m emerging to view other shows, just in time for the fall art season! (As Anu pointed out on her blog, Why do we all still live by the semester cycle?)

The exhibitions at the Wattis can be theatrical and unconventional, but I was pleasantly surprised with rewarding experiences at the new evolution of Passengers and the brand-new The Wizard of Oz exhibition.

Carsten Holler installation at the Wattis Institute's The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Carsten Holler installation at the Wattis Institutes' The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Really, even if I weren’t a light bulb freak (I dreamed of blue LED displays and reflector bulbs this morning), who wouldn’t love Carsten Höller‘s Wonderful signage, with a timed light-show sequence? Cans in the shape of letters with crystal clear incandescents. It’s nostalgic for the 20th century, which is only eight years ago when you think about it…

Glenn Ligon's installation at the Wattis Institute's The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Glenn Ligon's installation at the Wattis Institutes' The Wizard of Oz exhibition

I was delighted to stumble into this in a far room of the Wattis. I am a huge (yooouj!) Ligon fan, and came to appreciate his black-ed out neon work more after reading a great critical and phenomenological response to “Negro Sunshine,” (Richard Meyer’s “Light it Up, or How Glenn Ligon Got Over,” Artforum, May 2006). Blacked-out neon America: Brilliant! I like the outlined typewriter typeface, it’s somehow appropriately spook-y.

One of my favorite quotes is about oscillating between the container and the contained (from the Fluxus artist Daniel Spöerri), so of course I also was thrilled to come across this neon piece on Regen Project’s website too.

Claire Fontaine installation at the Wattis Institute's Passengers exhibition

Claire Fontaine installation at the Wattis Institute's Passengers exhibition

Brick-books of theory. The Wattis, of course, is housed on the campus of my alma mater, so for purely personal reasons, critical theory book wraparounds on cinder blocks are a riot. Of course, with all good conceptual art, the more you know, the better it gets. Fontaine is not an individual, but a French collective, and the installation is a meditation on the Paris 1968 riots, where a brick was more than a building material, but a weapon, a symbol of revolutionary actions. While anarchist communities are still active today (you will know them by their bicycle bumper stickers), it’s nice to be reminded of the once-obvious connection between critical theory and direct action.